One problem people have with talking about their temporomandibular joint disorder is what they should call it. Many people call it TMJ, but others call it TMD. The condition has actually had many different names in the 80 years since it was first described.

Jaw Pain Surgery and Early Naming

woman saddened by her jaw painThe first symptom recognized as relating to the temporomandibular joint was jaw pain, and in 1887 British surgeon Thomas Annandale described operations to relieve the pain. He didn’t give a formal description of the condition, but he noted many common symptoms, including the jaw getting stuck, jaw sounds, and pain during chewing.

After Annandale, for several decades people described jaw problems that included his symptoms, but also might include:

  • Jaw weakness
  • Deafness
  • Tinnitus
  • Vertigo
  • Speech defects
  • Personality changes

There wasn’t a consensus that these were related to the same condition, and it wasn’t given a name.

Costen’s Syndrome: the First Name for Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

Then in 1934, James B. Costen, an otolaryngologist, published a description of the disorder, and named it after himself.

He identified malocclusion leading to jaw joint deterioration as the cause of the condition, and added some additional symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Sinus symptoms, including pain, tingling, congested sensations
  • Pain in the front ⅔ of tongue

People embraced Costen’s name and explanation for a little  more than a decade. By 1948 people were starting to call the condition temporomandibular joint overclosure, and it was given its first acronym: TMJ.

Shortly thereafter, people began to question Costen’s explanation.

Disputes over Names, Symptoms, and Causes

In the 40s and 50s, experiments began to highlight the role of muscles as sources of pain and other problems connected to the condition. In response to these new explanations, people proposed that the condition should be called temporomandibular pain and dysfunction syndrome, and came up with the acronyms PDS and TMPDS.

For decades, people disputed the proper cause of the condition as well as proposing several possible names for it:

  • Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD, 1959)
  • Temporomandibular syndrome (TMS, 1963)
  • Myofacial pain dysfunction syndrome (MPD or MPDS, 1969)
  • Mandibular pain dysfunction syndrome (MDS, 1973)
  • Temporomandibular joint pain dysfunction syndrome (TMJ-PDS, 1973)
  • Mandibular whiplash (1989)
  • Craniomandibular disorder (CMD, 1990)

Sometimes these new names came with a different explanation of the condition. Other times they were trying to come up with a more accurate or inclusive name.

An Official Name

Finally, many came to accept an end to the controversy when in 1991-92, two major societies came together in the adoption of an official term for the condition. The Craniomandibular Institute and the American Academy of Orofacial Pain determined that the proper name for the condition was temporomandibular disorder, which would be abbreviated TMD.

Despite the “official” name, people still commonly call the condition TMJ. In fact, it may be used as much as ten times as often as the “correct” term TMD.

Whatever it’s called, if you experience symptoms we can treat it. Call (303) 691-0267 to schedule an appointment today.